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April 2, 2013
The Qualities of a Great Boss
Somebody asked me recently who my favorite boss was and why. I thought it was a great question and it, quite frankly, made my head spin. Not spin because I couldn’t name one, but spin because I could name a few. As I considered why these few supervisors were so great, I realized that I appreciated each of them for different reasons. I believe that my understanding and recognition of their strengths as leaders will only make me a better boss. Allow me to explain.
One of my very first jobs in high school was at GapKids (when the concept first launched in the early ‘90s). Looking back, I realize that my general manager had a big impact on me as a professional. She taught me the importance of being polite, cheerful, polished, and outgoing. She also was one of the first “businesswomen” I knew outside of my family. She found a way to successfully manage a career and raise her son, which was very inspiring (whether or I recognized this then or not, I don’t know).
Early in my marketing career, during the dot-com boom, I worked at Tribal DDB Dallas (DDB Digital at the time). Needless to say, it was like the Wild West in terms of projects moving very quickly and chaotically since everyone was still learning how the Internet worked best for marketing. My boss at the time was an amazing instructor in that she taught me the fundamentals of good account management. She was (and still is) one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. She had the amazing ability to elegantly comb through tough assignments with demanding clients. It was a pleasure to watch her work and learn how to remain calm and organized in a crazy environment. These lessons I keep with me today.
With a few years of experience under my belt, I moved on to DDB Dallas to round out my digital skills with more traditional marketing techniques. My new boss was young, energetic, and full of high expectations. His direct and no-B.S. approach proved to be difficult and helpful at the same time. He knew what he wanted out of our clients and me, and wasn’t afraid to ask for it. However, he wasn’t a jerk. He was extremely charming and had a way of motivating me to get the job done efficiently and effectively. He also was great with the “creatives” and showed me good techniques on how to work well with others in the agency.
Here we are today. Almost eight years ago, I joined McKee Wallwork & Company and have learned not only how to be a better marketing strategist, but also how to build an agency business. My boss has been instrumental in this learning process. He is smart, savvy, creative, and has an amazing knack for crafting overarching brand strategies. (I’m not kissing up here. It’s true, and trust me, I’m not the only one that thinks so. Just ask our clients.) He has shown me how valuable it is to deeply understand a client’s business and how marketing impacts the internal dynamics and improves the external drivers of an organization.
With over 16 years in the marketing world, I know that the learning process never stops and am thankful for the great leaders with which I have worked/currently work. I only hope that their leadership shines through me and positively affects the younger generation of marketers around me.

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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